poppy field



Having spent the best part of 40 years looking through a viewfinder of some sort, sitting in front of a computer editing photos or videos, producing websites and managing social media accounts, it’s a very strange feeling to now say when asked, “I’m retired".

Despite no longer taking on commercial paid work, it’s virtually impossible to suddenly stop what you’ve been doing for the best part of your working life so, for the past 24 months I’ve been taking on work on a ‘pro-bono’ basis for church, charity or voluntary organisations. I hope that my experience, skills and equipment can now be put to good use to those who perhaps, don’t have the budget or funding to produce what they want or need for their media requirements.

The following 'blog' items are a mixture, some from when I was working commercially and now, some new items that might be of interest.

Video tips for YouTube videos

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The appearance of Covid-19, lockdown and social distancing has created a huge rise in the number of people suddenly producing video content using webcams or phone cameras for Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Facebook and I’ve spent many, many hours recently editing videos shot for websites and YouTube.

I suppose the main problem I come across with editing many of these video clips, is someone using the phone upright. If content is produced for YouTube their platform is 16:9 or landscape, putting an upright video clip on YouTube gives black bars either side - not very professional! The workaround for a video editor is to duplicate the clip, enlarge and blur the first clip and place the duplicate normal size clip on top and this is something you’ll see a lot of on broadcast TV.

The second most common problem I encounter is the ‘eye-line’, we are used to looking people in the eye when talking to them, when a phone or laptop is placed on a table or desktop and angled up to see the person using it all we end up seeing is a distorted face and lots of nose hairs! Placing a few books or similar on the table and the laptop or phone on top of those to raise the eye line, you get a more pleasing result.

With most phone cameras, the quality of the back camera is usually, higher than the front (screen side) camera, but it’s difficult to see what you’re doing if you use the back camera! A small mirror can help you set up and position a phone camera (on top of your books!) so you see what the camera is seeing and allow you to use the better quality camera.

Lighting is key to good video, too many times I see a window in the background, this confuses the camera’s auto exposure and I get a dark video to edit. A better video image is obtained when facing the window or, with a window slightly to the side and out of shot.

Backgrounds. If you’ve been watching all the home interviews on the TV news recently, I’m guessing you have a good look around in the room they are using, trying to read the titles on the bookshelf, admiring the certificates or trophies or commenting on the wallpaper! Just remember your viewers will do the same, check your background, is it tidy? is there something you’d rather people didn’t see? Once your video is on Youtube or Facebook there is no control over who can watch it, so just be ‘security aware”, you probably don’t want to advertise your valuable antique clock in the background.

Video quality. Although this comes high on my list of requirements for good video, I can usually produce an acceptable result from well lit, well exposed video even at lower quality, however, if there are problems with the lighting or exposure, having the highest possible quality (resolution) to start with helps in any edit.

Virtually all video today is High Definition (a minimum of 1280x720 pixels), too often I’m sent videos from around the world, that are only Standard Definition shot with the front (screen side) camera (640x360 pixels), to make this suitable for YouTube I have to enlarge it 100% to meet HD specifications, this makes your video look very poor quality. Check the quality settings your phone or laptop camera can produce, you might find it’s possible to adjust the settings to produce a higher quality video.

‘Cutaways’. These can be confusing to understand but are vital to any video editor. Just recently I had a video delivered digitally, it was an interview shot in a nice garden and of good quality, for some reason right in the middle was around 8 seconds of black video but the audio was fine, I couldn’t cut the black video section out as the audio would then, not make sense, I contacted the camera person and asked if it was possible to return and shoot a few seconds of a pan around the garden so I could drop it into the black section. When the video was shown you’d have never known there was ever any problem with it - that was the use of a cutaway.

Cutaways can also be used to join 2 clips together of the same person speaking without them appearing to ‘jump’ on-screen, I dropped a shot of a bible over a person speaking that had been shot in 2 takes to cover the join recently. Look around for anything that might be suitable, a coffee cup beside them on the table, a bible on their lap, a pan of the garden if you or they are in the garden, if you watch any of the mainstream news programmes when they do interviews, you’ll see how cutaways can be used and get some ideas. Your cutaways might not be used, but if you’ve shot them and they are needed, you’ll be the editor’s friend for life.

Another minor change you can make to help a video editor, is to pause for 5-10 seconds and just look at the camera before you start speaking and, again when you finish speaking, just look at the camera for 5- 10 seconds, this helps enormously as it can be used to add a transition to the next item, too many times I get people reaching forward to turn the recording off while they are still speaking.

"Noddies". A strange name but you see them every day in TV interviews and are an alternate solution for an editor if there are no ‘cut-aways’ when shooting an interview. Many interviews are shot with two cameras, but if you only have one available there's a technique you can use. Place your camera (or phone) to record the person being interviewed and ask your questions normally, try not to speak or even comment with a ‘yes’ or similar when they are talking, and never talk over them, also try to leave a slight pause before you ask your next question.

When the interview is finished, turn the camera (or phone) round and ask just the questions again, this time filming yourself asking them, the same as when you asked them previously (and hopefully in the same order!), then pause and pretend you are listening to your interviewee answering and slightly nod your head gently as if in agreement (hence the term ‘noddies’), do this several times for each of your questions for around 20 seconds each time, this will give the editor time to chose the right shot, you can also make a slight smile as if your interviewee has said something amusing, when this is all cut together by the editor, it’ll look as if you were using two cameras.

Sending video. Video files tend to be quite large and usually too big to email, recording and sending via Messenger or WhatsApp compresses the video so the quality is low when it’s received. If possible use the camera or laptop built-in video recording App and use that file. Good alternatives to send video are either WeTransfer or Google Share, this means the full-size original file is received without any compression. DropBox can also be used but its popularity seems to be falling away for some reason. Alternatively, for a local editor, a USB thumb drive can be used and dropped off (with social distancing observed) if your internet speed leaves a lot to be desired.

The next level. If you want to take your phone video shooting to the next level, there is a great App for iPhone or Android called FilmicPro available for around £15, it allows many adjustments for camera settings that'll dramatically improve the quality of your video, the car company Bentley used an iPhone and FilmicPro to shoot a TV commercial!

With just a few simple steps, your video content and quality can be dramatically increased, you probably won’t be offered a job on the Beeb as a camera person, but just watching how mainstream channels produce either single person to the camera or 2 person interviews will raise the quality (and content) of what you can produce for Youtube or Facebook.

This page will probably get updated, so make sure you check back occasionally.

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